Reading for the End of Summer
End of summer is never easy for me. Yes, I love sweaters and the smell of wood smoke and the warmth brought on by a slug of red wine — but still I prefer bare feet and reading in an old lawn chair under the shade of a tree, the smell of clover in the air and a glass of cold white wine by my side.
Fortunately for me, two of my favorite authors have synced the release dates of their annual treats and both now fall at the end of August. I’ve raved in the past for both Sharon Bolton and Louise Penny, and what absolute pleasure it is for me to have both of their new books to read in early September, as I prepare myself for the end of summer.
The latest from Louise Penny, Glass Houses, took me back to Three Pines and the world of Armand Gamache. Penny (very successfully) experiments with something new in this book, as she shifts the narrative back and forth between full on summer and coming –winter, between the humid heat of a Montreal courtroom and the damp chill of the Three Pines countryside.
In the fall, a dark presence made itself felt in Three Pines and the tragedy that played out in its shadow is now at the heart of the trial being held in the summer — but there is also a secret trial going on, not of laws but of morality, a battle of inner conscience over prescribed duty. Gamache and his crew face choices that could lose them their positions but quite possibly save the entire Quebec Province from a scourge that is at the top of our news cycle right now. Election tampering? Hurricanes? No, opioids — and Penny offers a grim forecast for the eradication but also a moral imperative for facing the crisis head on.
As always, the novel is full of soul-searching conversations accompanied by great food; snippets of profound poetry delivered by a crone with a duck; and simple sentences rich with lasting impact. “In the photo, almost a hundred years old, was the thing that now stood in the center of Three Pines.” What and why that thing has come to Three Pines is both the linchpin to the summer trial and the winter tragedy — and also perhaps the answer to the eternal question of why evil flourishes, and yet goodness can still prevail.
Sharon Bolton offers up a different atmosphere in her latest, Dead Woman Walking, with little of the cozy possibilities of Three Pines and much more of the subtly (and not so subtly) terrifying threats that occur at the intersection of crooked law enforcement, greedy criminals, and exploitable populations.
Two sisters, one balloon ride over Northumbria, and plenty of secrets make for an evening spent reading as fast I could, pausing only to make sure the doors were locked and to pull my sweater closer around me. Once again Bolton has delivered an unputdownable thrill of a book, with a brave woman (actually, quite a few women this time!) battling for justice against a whirling criminal enterprise.
Two wonderful books, one to savor, one to read at breakneck speed, and both to offer solace against the coming darkness. Bring it on, Daylight Savings Time, I’m ready for you.